Wednesday, 25 November 2009


Daisy Nook have varying events on through the year for both volunteers and the average Joe to come along and take part in. Sunday's event was coppicing - making pathways safe, felling trees, clearing shrubbery and making wildlife habitats out in the country park and alongside wildflower meadows.

The day started out very grim with huge dark threatening clouds in the sky and the wind blowing a gale, however by the time Paul and I got to the park the weather had calmed down massively.

After meeting the other people involved - several Duke of Edinburgh Award lads, few volunteers and 3 rangers, and receiving instruction from the chief ranger that day - Jane - we all picked up our tools and headed off into the glorious muddiness that resembled the park that day.

The DoE lads stayed in the wildflower meadow clearing there, while the vols carried on with Jane to a steep hillside which drastically needed clearing. Paul was the only male in our group with myself, Joanne, Derve and Hazel and we split into 2 groups - Paul, Derve and Joanne as one, myself and Hazel as the other. When Jane said that trees needed to be felled myself and Hazel leapt at the chance to do it.Bow saws in hand we were led to 3 Sycamore trees that were too leggy and causing a few problems. Learning the correct way to fell a tree was real interesting and before long we'd both felled a tree each before both taking down the third. Jane was mightily impressed that we'd managed it so easily. To be honest the thrill of felling something so big was exhilarating. Added to the fact that the logs were being used as dead hedges on the riverside and as critter homes elsewhere, it felt really good to be helping conservation. Pretty soon, the area had been dealt with leaving the path clear and safe (tis a very steep sided tree lined valley) and homes/hedges built.

After lunch at the centre we headed off to the second location of the day - Medlock Vale where loads needed to be done. In the seventies the council overcompensated for the lack of trees in the area etc and planted too many trees too close to each other so they grew to be pretty much poker straight 30ft tall logs with a sprout of greenery on the very tops. Not very attractive as trees really.

Again we split into our groups. Myself and Hazel attacking the sycamores, Paul and Derve attacking beech, Joanne clearing shrubbery and the DoE boys off elsewhere struggling with their trees. After being assaulted by all the brambles myself and Hazel got our trees down creating nice homes for hedgehogs and foxes and soon we'd moved on round to another area to free the path of overhanging trees and overgrown straggly brambles that were threatening to eat us up. This time there were no areas nearby where we could toss the logs, so after felling them we had to haul them up the hill and toss them into the valley we'd chosen as a good spot for the wildlife habitats. Several trees later and the coats were coming off as we'd worked up a sweat.

Pretty soon we were called to help the DoE boys as they couldn't fell a tree. Myself and Hazel stalked over bow saw in hand and attacked the bugger. Once it was down trying to cut it down into smaller sections was proving hard as it decided to bounce about. Shouting out for some assistance in holding it down proved fruitless. Looking around the DoE boys had buggered off leaving us girlies to carry on. Did they get miffed that girls could bring the tree down they were struggling with? I don't know. But I do know that it isn't part of the award to just admit defeat and leave. Oh well.

Way too soon it was time to head home as it was getting dark and the rain had begun to fall. I loved every minute of it. The best mental and physical exercise I've had in a very long time. My knee coped brilliantly. Best of all I didn't even ache the day after!

I might just become a volunteer ranger for the place.

Friday, 20 November 2009

Dr Pain

This morning's visit to the doctors passed by relatively well. Doc is rather amazed that Surgeon advised I lead a very sedentary life. So was I when originally told, hence why I ignored him and only gave up the racquet sports and football, while carrying on cycling. Doc wants me to see my physio to ensure all ligaments, muscles etc are working properly before we turn to any drastic measures. He's adamant he wants me to keep cycling and also suggested I maybe take up rowing as not only will that keep my knee active it'd also help my repairing shoulder. So, I need to speak to my local gym to see about getting an induction. I certainly won't be rowing on a river! By the time I've finished having physio on my knee, I'll have been under their care for almost a year! ¤sent from my mobile device¤

Thursday, 19 November 2009

Windy walk

Seeing as I'm going out of my tree with not riding this week I opted for a walk today regardless of the gales and the threat of torrential rain.

I chose a portion of a walk I've done frequently that I knew wouldn't be too hilly or too muddy in the current crap climatic conditions.

I set off from mine with a beanie on as despite it being mild out the gales were supposed to make it much colder. What the weather forecasters failed to note was that the wind was actually rather warm, so before long the beanie was off and replaced with my baseball cap to shelter my eyes from airborne crud. By the time I'd passed Millstream Animal Shelter my waterproof jacket was getting unzipped as I was already beginning to get a sweat on.
Before long I'd reached the steepest point of my walk with a brief 14-20% section to enter Woodhouses. Directly opposite some gorgeous cottages is a road that for several years I thought just led to some expensive looking houses off the main road. It wasn't until a year or so ago that I actually paid attention whilst walking past and saw the weathered finger post sign letting the world know that it led to Medlock Vale and was part of the Oldham Way.
I headed down this road which led past some stunning houses before reaching an old cobbled section (maybe a century old?) that led steeply down to a gorgeous farm in the valley with a stunning vista of woodland all around it. Once past the farm and along a muddy track (with some deep tractor ruts in it) and I was at my desired location of the bridge over the Medlock itself. My aim of coming here was to see exactly how much the river had risen with the influx of rain we've had recently. Further downstream I'd seen the river so deep that there wasn't much of the archway left to be seen in the road bridge - pretty sure the river had risen at least 4 or 5ft. Up here the river was lapping over the banks and had breached them at one point. Luckily the banks of the river here are actually 10ft or so below the pathways - kind of a valley in a valley. However there didn't seem any imminent danger of it breaching fully.
Once I'd had a rest I set off back through the muddy tracks to the waymarked entrance of a field and tramped my way through until I reached Vale Lane again which brought me alongside fishing ponds and back out onto the main road, where I pootled back down the hill to get onto Edge Lane again.

From here I climbed back up the hill in another direction to the level crossing and the start of the Clayton Vale circular route (a portion of the Vale I'd not walked along for many many years) alongside the train tracks until the Culcheth Lane entrance and the trail led down into the valley here where again the river was so swollen and fast flowing that even the ducks had huge problems. Crossing the old bridge and climbing back out of the valley I startled a bunny - my startle saved it's little fuzzy life though as soon a Sparrowhawk came swooping about looking for lunch and he'd have been the meal if he hadn't have hopped away into the undergrowth.

Now I'm at my mom's place and my knee is swollen internally (horrid squishy feeling) and kinda dead, so I'm glad it was only a short walk and it's something more I can tell Doc when I see him.

Temp: 11C with a real feel of 11C. Winds 29mph S.
Miles: 4.2
Climbed: 296ft

Monday, 16 November 2009

Enforced leave

Humph! I'm not happy! At all! I'm forcing myself to have a week off the bike.

I've been having loads of problems with my knee ever since the tibial plateau was fractured in 2004 leaving a perma-buggered knee, a non-removable 'step' in the rear of the patella and stage 2 arthritis. Problems such as constant niggles, dull aches most of the time, creaking (much more than is normal in healthy knees and also more than is anticipated with my genetic joint condition) etc.

In recent months this has progressed into having approximately half the week with sharp pain when bending the knee and/or the occasional searing pain.

Within the past week this has progressed even more into extreme sickening searing pains both at the old fracture site and deep within my knee and both while awake and during the night (keeping me awake at night and/or making me snooze with a bucket by the side of the bed.

Things came to a head last night while using my pc and having both the searing pain and a dead feeling in the same joint, often at the same time. After chatting to my mom bout it, she suggested going to A&E which I knew would be pointless, as the last time I went with my knee problem I was bounced from pillar to post before getting to see my consultant again months later.
So, I'll be trying to get in to see my GP and ask for a referral to Mr Samarji. The last time I saw Mr Samarji he was talking more surgery if things don't really stay the same or improve. Maybe now is the time for that to happen.

It's kind of a Catch-22 situation: I want rid of the pain as it's horrid and often makes my leg just give way completely so having more surgery would be great in that respect. But, I was told at the time of the injury that further injury (of which there has been 2 instances) will more than likely result in a total knee replacement, which at my age isn't great as the hardware would need replacing more frequently. Hmm, constant vomit-inducing pain or frequent surgery? Choices, choices.

First things first - get in to see Doc Dean and no other doc, cos I don't want to be dismissed again like I was a few months ago.

The ouchy ride

After watching the Revolution series at the Manchester Velodrome on Saturday night, spending most of the time stood up, I possibly foolishly decided on riding Sunday morning. What was meant to be a nice easy flat ride became a slow paced ride with some climbing to do. A ride that became slower as it went on due to the pain in my knee getting progressively worse.

A portion of the Floop was ridden to Debdale before a jaunt on Hyde Rd/Manchester Rd through Denton Roundabout and into Hyde, then the climb up to Roe Cross via Victoria St and Matley. This was followed by the descent into Stalybridge then the climb back out to Ashton and up over to Park Bridge for the great descent there (rather busy this time round). Followed, naturally by my off-road jaunts that added mud to the road crud covering Everest and myself already. Over the M60 and climbing up a muddy, leafy slope on slicks brought me back out on the roads without having to get up the stupidly steep portion of road that would have finished me off as my perma-buggered knee was really whining now. Luckily I was close enough to home to really slow down without the fear of night descending before I got there.

Stats -
Temp: 11C with a real feel of 11C, wind 12mph WSW
Miles: 18.74
Average speed: 12.1mph
Climbed: 1002ft

Wednesday, 11 November 2009

Lest we not forget them

On the 11th hour, of the 11th day, of the 11th month.
At the going down of the sun
and in the morning
we shall remember them.

Remembrance Ride

I set off in the morning for a nice ride, hoping to stop off at a memorial for the 2 minute silence. Just in case I couldn't get to a memorial, as with last year I wore my red kit to emulate a poppy in case I was too far away come 11am and needed to stop anywhere to remember the fallen.

As it was I made good time on the ride and rode to the war memorial in Hurst Cemetery to pay my respects again - I'd stopped to watch the Remembrance Day parade on Sunday, and rode to Ladysmith Barracks late last night and attached a poppy to the gate. Unlike Sunday, where I started blubbing (not sure why as I haven't personally lost anyone in a war), I held it together but felt very goosebumpy and cold despite sweating buckets.

I like to think the souls of the fallen came to thank me for remembering them.

After the silence, I made very easy headway home to watch the Remembrance Service on the BBC.

Stats -
Temp: 7C with a real feel of 5C, wind 9mph SW
Miles: 17.66
Average speed: 14.1mph
Climbed: 732ft

Monday, 9 November 2009

Winter wonderland

I woke up to a bright crisp, chilly morning and I just had to get out and ride. I opted for a real easy route (one I use all the time) and loved it.

After clambering into my winter gear - Giordana winter tights, compression base layer, MCC jersey, Gore arm warmers, Endura overshoes and my cheats winter gloves (normal gloves with mitts over the top) - I threw my Discovery Channel windproof jacket on and hauled ass downstairs and into the pure air of a stunning winter morning.

Due to the roadworks that have now bred all over the place on my road (main Manchester to Ashton route) and will remain there for the next 3yrs or until they actually finish, whenever that may be; and given how I've already gone through 2 pairs of tyres this year because of the roadworks; I decided to try and avoid all of the diversions and contraflows so spent a fair while doubling back on myself via back streets to get through to Fairfield and then onto my usual route to Park Bridge. After coming out at Bardsley I took the road route to the John Hayworth Centre for a bacon butty (I know, I'm undoing all the good work I've just put in), a steaming mug of tea and a chat with Lesley and the countryside centre warden.
Once I'd winterproofed myself again I set off on the muddy but fun way back to Bardsley and along the roads through Ashton and along to the Snipe. Here I had a heart stopping nearly squished moment.

The road is 3 laned at this point leading up to the one way system: left hand lane is for straight on or left turn only, middle is for following the one way system to the right and then to the left, while the right hand lane is for following the one way system all the way to the right (right, then right again). Coming up to the Snipe I was ahead of a HGV who was being real good and staying far behind me and letting me rule the road. Coming up to the 2nd set of lights, I moved into the middle lane as that will take me home, but I sit to the left of this lane to allow traffic to still pass me on the right. The HGV was still real good and was slowly trundling in the left hand lane by now and was slowly passing me taking as much care as he could. I checked behind me, saw there was nothing there nor in the right hand lane, so I pulled over a little more to give the HGV more room to pass. HOONNNNNNNNNKKKKKKK!!!!! From nowhere a black cab had jumped on my ass, honked and scared the shit out of me so much that I nearly jumped into the side of the HGV. I purposely slowed down so that the cabbie was on my side, pointed to myself, then the HGV, then slid my finger across my throat, all while yelling at the tosser that he very nearly murdered me by being a tosspot. As in the life of the Spraggster, the cabbie just looked at me blankly shrugged his shoulders and then proceeded to undertake me and go into the left hand lane before putting his foot down. He was obviously way too lazy to just simply wait behind the HGV passing a vulnerable cyclist with extreme care.

The rest of the way home was filled with trepidation each time a vehicle got too close behind me (on slick roads too) half expecting to be splattered and scraped up into a jam jar.

Ah well, there's always another day to ride :oD

Stats -
Temp: 3C with real feel of 0C, wind 7mph wsw.
Miles: 15.73
Average speed: 13.6mph
Climbed: 470ft

Sunday, 8 November 2009

Pike and Remembrance

Before heading over to the cenotaph close by my place to pay my respects, I set off for a ride to the Pike - a lung busting, leg crunching ride that took me through Audenshaw, Dukinfield and Stalybridge to get to the Pike the hard way up Broadcarr Lane, a short but steep (13%) climb.

After sucking in the chill air a fab descent brought me out at the Abbey Hills Rd junction where I aimed to get back over to Park Bridge via the steepest way down into the valley. I managed it fine this time with only a little bit of a scare when I underturned a corner and nearly rode into trees. Whoops!

After the jolty cobbled section of road between Park Bridge and the Medlock I took it easy for a while before descending Crime Lane and climbing back out of the valley and up into Ashton. Excellent sprinting along Robert Sheldon Way has boosted my hopes for a decent time in Decembers Track Champs.

Back near Droylsden and I had a rest while veterans and cadets were led on a parade by a marvellous marching band through the streets to the cenotaph near where I live. I hadn't realised I'd been out so long and had to sprint back to my place for a quick bath and change of clothes before heading over to Cemetery Rd and the Remembrance Day service.

Stats -
Miles: 19.6
Average speed: 16.7mph
Climbed: 1218ft

Wednesday, 4 November 2009

Who did that?!

Seeing as the weather was pretty good - dryish and with a breeze, not the howling gales we had recently - I set off for another easy pootle. Was hoping to replicate Monday nights ride. The reality, however, was it was not to be.

The weather was chilly, but I was wrapped up nice and warm.

Up towards Ashton with no problems. By the Wild Bean Cafe/BP garage, I turned off to avoid the one way section. While turning I got a heart stopping moment as my rear wheel began to slide out from under me. SHIIIIIIIT! I'm not sure how, but I managed to stop it sliding completely out from under me as I didn't want a repeat of the pelvis injury I got in February when I got splatted. My poor pelvis has been in a state of shock since February and is really susceptible to injury for a few years yet.


Passing Ikea my lungs were beginning to scream at me. My chest felt like it was caving in, and I was having problems breathing due to the extreme pain around my sternum. With each breath it felt like I was sucking on dry ice and the waves of pain were rather nauseating. I knew that this ride would be pathetically short. The situation was evident: the icy cold air was freezing my broncheoles and alveoli (sections of lung to those not medically-minded) and causing my asthma (which was thought to have long gone) to return with a huge boom. This has happened before* and docs are wary of giving me steroids again to deal with it as other than these vary odd episodes, I'm pretty much ok. I knew how to deal with it without medical help, so just got on with it while receiving very odd looks due to what I was doing.

When the pain had subsided to an acceptable level I carried on towards Daisy Nook where a welcome sweet hot tea calmed me down and the warm indoor air melted the icebergs in my chest.

I decided there and then to just head home and not go any further to reduce after effects (I'm now wheezy). The warm air back at home has helped massively.

* The sudden change in air temperature is the usual suspect for these episodes as my lungs don't have the gradual decline in warmth to get used to. Think of how you get goose bumps going from a warm car into the snowy outdoors. My brochioles and alveoli sort of react like that but constrict at the same time.

Stats -
Miles: 8.46
Average speed: 14.6mph
Climbed: 181ft

Night ride

My night ride was changed to Monday night as I was meeting a friend on Tuesday evening after work. I was kind of glad to have a change of day for the ride to be honest.

Given that my shoulder was still sore after physio on Friday (hence why I didn't ride the 50 Mile Madness with Joby and Chris on Sunday) I took it real easy and tweaked the route so it was more of a pootle than an ordeal.

I set off along my usual evening route to Ashton, then up Cranbourne, along Ladbrooke to Whiteacre, across Queens Rd and up Palace Rd to Rose Hill Rd and up to Gorsey Lane before the awesome descent into Ashton again, through Guide Bridge, sneaking my way into the middle lane once back on Manchester Rd by the Snipe and hurtled along back home.

Despite the descent and the hurtling home, I took the rest of the route quite easily due to the rain slick roads and the showers I had to endure while out. Luckily I wore my Endura waterproof jacket so I remained dry, but I did have the ubiquitous skunk tail effect (I don't own any mudguards for Everest yet).

Even better is that my Endura jacket is so-called Tangerine coloured - in reality it is high viz. I also have the rear of my bike looking a little like a christmas tree with my cat-eye and 2 knog frogs blinking away. It's still more than a little disconcerting that a few drivers still came within a whisker of taking me out on corners. One bus driver, whose company shall remain nameless (Stagecoach. Oops, did I tell everyone?? Lol), very nearly squished me on a sprint as he meandered lazily into my lane.

Still, he didn't. I'm, alive (I think) and all ready to play out again another day!

Stats -
Miles: 12.14
Average speed: 14.3mph
Climbed: 431ft

Sunday, 1 November 2009

October review

Again, it has been a fairly good month:

Distance covered: 210.35 miles
Elevation gained: 7428ft

Days ridden: 11 (some night rides in amongst that)
Middleton CC: yep - to Ramsbottom
Events: 0

Still not doing any hill reps as most of my longer rides now seem to incorporate hillier routes and I feel stronger on the climbs. My monthly elevation total is averaging out quite nicely now too.

Granted, due to the inclement weather that has now hit us very hard today, the next few months may well have a lot less riding in them. But, I will try to get out there and do what I can.